Redskin has gift of grab; big-play receiver 5-foot-10
ASHBURN, Va. — When his mother finally relented and decided to let him play football, Santana Moss got the ball at his first practice and outran everyone else for what should have been a sure touchdown.
Instead, he slowed down and let everyone tackle him.
“I didn’t know the concept,” Moss said. “It was kind of funny as a 12-year-old, I didn’t know much about the game. But once I learned it, it was downhill from there.”
That might have been the one and only chance some people would ever have to run down Moss, who has used his speed and athleticism to become a big-play, game-changingforcewiththeWashington Redskins. At 5-foot-10, he compensates for his smaller stature with an aggressive approach to the ball. Once he has it, good luck chasing him. “I haven’t seen anybody that I can remember that reacts to the long ball the way he does,” Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs said. “He has unusual body control on anything deep.
Different from most receivers
“Most guys have to really look at the ball and size it up and put their hands where they need to go to get it at the high point. He can just glance, see where it is, and then he has a way of going to get it. He is real graceful when he goes to get the ball. When he hits the ground, he is an exceptional runner.”
That’s an apt description of what hap- pened last weekend, when Moss snagged a high pass from Mark Brunell near the sideline with a cornerback on one side and a safety closing in. Both were left dumbfounded as Moss came down with the catch and ran untouched for a 68-yard touchdown to win the game in overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
When Brunell threw the pass, Gibbs heard one of his assistants in his headset yell, “Don’t go there!” Once Moss caught it, the yell changed to, “OK, go there!” Brunell said the pass was so risky he will probably be advised by coaches never to try it again, and that he wouldn’t have taken the chance if Moss hadn’t been the receiver.
“He’s got the ability to go up there and make somebody miss and make the catch,” Brunell said.
Brunell wasn’t nearly as confident in Moss on March 10, 2005, when the Redskins acquired the receiver in a trade that sent disgruntled wideout Laveranues Coles back to the New York Jets. Coles was coming off a solid season — 90 catches for 950 yards — even though the offence had not been very good in Gibbs’s first year out of retirement.
“When we traded a guy that had 80something, 90-something catches for a guy that had 30 or 40, you look at the numbers and think, ’Who got the better end of that deal?’ ” Brunell said.
Moss caught 151 passes over four inconsistent seasons with the Jets, where he had sour dealings with the notorious New York media.
Brother plays for Giants
In contrast to his days in New York, Moss enjoys star status in Washington. He’ll forever be remembered for his two fourth-quarter touchdown catches at Dallas last year, turning a 13-0 hole into a 1413 victory. That performance jump-started the Redskins’ season — and put Moss on track toward his first Pro Bowl. His three touchdowns last weekend similarly provided a needed boost for Washington’s offence in 2006.
Moss was selected the NFC offensive player of the week for his game against the Jaguars, but he’s not one who makes a fuss about honours. Or, as he calls it, “all that mushy stuff.”
“As long as I know what I have done, I don’t need someone to brag about it.”
Moss does come close to mushy when asked about his family. Brother Sinorice is a rookie receiver with the Giants, and brother Adam is a kicker in college for Florida International. Sinorice is injured and won’t play Sunday, but Santana said the game will have extra meaning nonetheless.
“Once I started playing football — you can ask my brothers — I came home and told them everything, both of them. I fed ’em, fed ’em, fed ’em. Now they’re 20 and above and I’m still feeding them more knowledge and letting them know. That’s the good thing about being a big brother.”
Moss said he has a hunger for the game because his mother wouldn’t let him play until he was 12. Then he had a high school coach who gave him scant playing time until his senior year.
“You know how people say: ’Live life like it’s your last day?’ I kind of take my catches like that,” Moss said.
Now he’s taking the same approach with son, Santana Jr.
“My son’s six and he’s eager to go out and play,” Moss said. “I’m just going to let him stay hungry and wait until I think he’s ready.”
Santana Moss made a play last week the coaches couldn’t believe